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Real university departments take on virtual world

By CANG WEI in Nanjing | China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-30 09:40
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A university in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, has started to offer the country's first major in the metaverse, and has become something of controversy on the internet.

The Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology has changed the name of its Department of Information Engineering to the Department of Metaverse Engineering, making it the first university department named after the metaverse in the country.

Pan Zhigeng, director of the university's School of Artificial Intelligence (School of Future Technology), which includes the metaverse department, said that the university aims to establish advanced platforms for teaching, research, academic exchange and international cooperation on the metaverse.

"The metaverse has become very popular and has received a great deal of attention since last year," Pan said. "We'll jointly train master, doctoral and postdoctoral students in the metaverse with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in the future. A metaverse special committee will also be established under the Jiangsu Artificial Intelligence Society."

According to Pan, the metaverse is the integration of a vast range of technologies and applications, such as Internet of Things, blockchain, artificial intelligence and smart healthcare.

Graduates of the department will be able to meet the demands of companies in a variety of sectors including smart healthcare, smart education and digital tourism, he added.

After the concept of the metaverse became popular in China, some universities, including several top-level institutions, began to undertake metaverse-related research.

In April, the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Renmin University set up the country's first metaverse research center, and plans to release research reports, publish Chinese and English books and essays, and set up metaverse-related courses.

In the same month, Tsinghua University established a metaverse cultural laboratory.

In July, Yibin Vocational and Technical College in Sichuan province established a metaverse research and application center and industrial school.

In September, Nanning Vocational and Technical College and a digital company both in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region also established a metaverse industrial school.

However, netizens have expressed doubts that the Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology thought things through before setting up their metaverse department, and that graduates may have difficulties finding jobs.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said that the university should focus on improving the quality of teaching and academic research.

"What the public expects is not a name that sounds fancy," he said. "But instead of discouraging the university, we should pay closer attention to how it will manage the metaverse, and whether it has a systematic plan."

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